Geraniums in Need

I don’t deserve my houseplants.

In college I bought two geraniums at a plant sale. I’m reasonably sure I’m watering one of them in this short film my friends and I made in 2008.


I since gave one to my dad. It’s beautiful and lush and is living out its days on the front porch. The other one stayed with me, and I’ve been treating it with an attitude that could very generously be called laissez-faire.

Here it is.


It’s been wasting away in the window of our living room for a few years. This past spring I finally got it together to give it a dash of fertilizer, which inspired it to grow this long tentacle off to the right.

To its credit, it’s been blooming more or less constantly all this time. I’ve been hoping to collect some seeds, but while I’ve gotten a few fluffy spikes from the spent flowers, no actual seeds have appeared.


Deciding I owed it to this plant to try and make things right, I took a few simple but decisive steps. First of all, I cut off the tentacle. It was the newest growth, but it was unsustainable. It could barely hold itself up and was only going to get longer.

For curiosity’s sake, I stuck it in a bucket of dirt to see if I could get it to take root.


I removed all the flowers (and, since, a few of the leaves) to help it focus its energy on root-growing.


I trimmed up the main plant a bit and gave both containers a big dose of kelp meal and water. I set them in the dappled shade for a few days, then moved them to fuller sun.

Now it’s been a little over a month and, against all odds, both plants are alive and kicking.


I’m especially impressed with the tentacle which, with four leaves to its name, has produced a big clutch of flowers and buds.


If I’d known this thing was going to make it, I might’ve taken a little more care planting it – like cutting it down or sticking it in better soil that wasn’t infested with mulberry seeds.


I’m not about to mess with now, though. I’ll give it some more time either to establish or exhaust itself, and then I’ll take stock.


The main plant is looking much better, too. It’s still on the spindly side, but it’s a lot greener and blooming more vigorously.


I’d say Project Geranium was a success. They have another good month or two outside to build up their strength, so hopefully it’s only up from here.


If they hold on long enough, they just might get to star in another movie.




Rugosa Rose Propagation

I just got back from vacation with my family. I trooped down to the public library for essentials like work and Game of Thrones, but for the most part I’ve been without internet.

Now I’m back with the comforting blanket of pervasive wifi and a fierce desire to grow Rugosa Roses.


Rugosa Rose, also called Rugged Rose or Beach Rose, grows all over the island my family vacations on. It smells amazing. A few years ago my parents put two small plants in their garden. They’re on course to take over the house in a few years, so my dad had no problem sending me home with a few cuttings.


I’ve never propagated roses, but after hastily reading a single google result I decided I was good to go.

I read that my cuttings should be 6 to 8 inches long, with a withered flower on the end. As luck would have it, the branches my dad gave me were covered in just-passed flowers, so I clipped off as many 8 inch lengths as I could find.


I cut off the lower leaves to make a long bare stem of new growth, ending in one or two sets of leaves and single flower.


These were some productive branches – I ran out of small pots before I ran out of flowers.


My inadequate research has led me to believe that new growth propagates better than old growth. Since I have so much old growth and don’t really know what I’m doing, though, I’m giving it a go with the big branches, too. I made a new 45 degree cut at the base of each one because of an unfounded belief that this is better.


I removed the lower growth and stuck each branch in a big pot. It almost looks like I have real, healthy plants and not just branches jammed in the ground.


Just for the heck of it I planted a couple of those flowerless lower branches, too.


With everybody planted, I gave them a thorough soaking. Apparently the name of the game now is keeping the cuttings moist. I read that covering them in plastic bags helps, but it’s been so hot recently that I’m worried I’d roast them that way. Instead I’ve been spraying them down daily, never letting the soil dry out.


In all I have 13 cuttings – some old growth and some new, some deadheaded and some not. (I have to imagine deadheaded is better, since they’re devoting energy to roots instead of seeds, but we’re learning here).


With this many test subjects, something is bound to take, right?

Lemon Hope

My lemon tree has had a strange winter. It’s shot up by a few feet and is about as tall as I am. And it’s lost a lot of its leaves…

Both very good reasons to give it a bigger pot.


This tree has never given me a lemon and perhaps it never will, but I love it anyway.

I planted it from a seed three years ago when I moved to Providence. In a fit of gardening I went to the grocery store and bought every food I thought I could plant. The only remnants are this tree and my prized ugly rosemary bush, grown from a sprig.

I bought a 16″ pot with a false bottom that’s supposed to be self-watering. Citrus trees need a lot of water, so I’m hoping this helps.


First I had to get the tree out of its old pot. I gently turned it on its side. Some loose soil fell out, but but almost all of it was bound up in the root ball.

Cat for scale.IMG_4254

It took some doing to get the root ball out of the pot. I banged on the sides and bottom and yanked gently on the trunk. The trunk is a good centimeter in diameter and very woody, but this was rougher than I wanted to be with it. I was about to get the shears to cut the pot away when the whole thing popped out all at once.


The roots had started to circle around the bottom – not ideal. I loosened them up a little with my fingers, so hopefully they’ll spread out in their new home.


I made a bed of a few inches of potting soil and set the tree on top of it. At some point in the winter it sprouted this new little stalk from the base of its trunk. It’s the healthiest part of the tree and my failsafe – if the main plant gets worse I’ll lop everything off and hope this little guy makes it.

There are some new leaves higher up, though, so I’m hoping for the best.


I filled the pot up too high with potting soil and worked in some kelp meal. I’ll have to research what lemon trees like to eat, but in the meantime I get the impression that you can’t go wrong with kelp.


I filled the pot even more too high with buckwheat hulls to keep the moisture in. My dad has forever put bits and bobs in his potted plants, so I do too. They’re especially helpful for holding the hulls in place and dispersing the watering can’s stream more evenly.

The bits and bobs featured here are oyster and scallop shells, a rusted railroad tie, and some rocks from Iceland.


I’ve put the tree in a dappled shade part of the driveway. I’ll move it to full sun eventually, but this is already a big change from its window inside, and I don’t want it getting scorched.

Hopefully it starts to recover those lost leaves.


Maybe someday I’ll even get a lemon.

Spider Plant Magic

Winter is here with a vengeance. It’s been unseasonably mild, but the honeymoon is over and we’re finally getting some real cold and snow.  This is now the only way I can leave the house.


My spider plant must not realize this, though, because it’s flowering! I noticed it was putting out a long shoot and thought for sure it would make another baby spider. I was excited, since all the previous spiders had been ripped off by the cat.


Instead I’ve got a long series of buds, two of which have already opened. There are a couple grassy strands at the end, too, and I won’t be surprised if they do turn into a baby spider.


I’ve had this plant since I was a sophomore in college, and I can’t recall it ever flowering before! Whether this is a special event or I’ve just never looked at the right time, I don’t know. Nor do I know if spider plants are self pollinating, but I’m going to go at it with a Q-tip regardless and hope for the best.


These are exciting times we live in.